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Naval Warfare

HMS Cyclops (1871)

Breastwork Monitor / Ironclad [ 1871 ]

HMS Cyclops and her three sister ships were primarily used for coastal defense of the British mainland up until 1901 and given up in 1903.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/13/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Cyclops class of the 1870s period served the British Royal Navy as coastal defense ships, well-armored and armed for the task. The class was led by HMS Cyclops herself and strengthened by three sister ships: HMS Gorgon, HMS Hecate, and HMS Hydra. The group was built to the same design standard, classified as "breastwork monitors" and generally described as stout floating gun batteries concentrating the superstructure and armament at midships at the expense of undesirable maneuverability. Regardless, they were powerful and well-armored for their time.

The class was under construction from 1870 until 1877 and served in commissioned service from 1874 until all were given up in 1901. Each warship survived its respective tenure and all were ultimately succeeded by the newer Conqueror-class ironclads.

In the Cyclops design, the hull superstructure was positioned at midships and bookended by a pair of large turrets. A single smoke funnel was seated amidships with the mast works just aft. The bridge section overhung the structure from all sides. The freeboard was of a low-profile design which enhanced speed. Displacement reached 3,540 tons (short) and measurements included a running length of 225 feet, a beam of 45 feet, and a draught of 16.2 feet.

Installed power came in the form of 2 x Horizontal direct-acting steam engines developing between 1,475hp and 1,710hp while driving 2 x Shafts astern. The warship could make headway at 11 knots while onboard supplies allowed it to reach ranges of 3,000 nautical miles (3,500 miles) when cruising near 10 knots.

Aboard was a complement of 156 and armament was limited to 4 x 10" (254mm) muzzle-loading rifled main guns held in two twin-gunned traversing turrets. Armor protection reached 8" at the belt, 1.5" along the deck, 9" at the superstructure and conning tower, and 10" at the turrets.

HMS Cylcops was not completed until 1877 despite her being launched to sea in 1871 (indeed sisters Gorgon and Hydra achieved service status before her). As soon as 1887, with the work lasting until 1889, the class was given a complete refit/overhaul as the ships never really excelled in the ironclad warship role. Cyclops' sailing career saw her as part of the Particular Service Squadron before being assigned to the Fleet Reserve after 1889 where she remained as such until 1901. The entirety of the class was sold off for scrapping during 1903, bringing about a formal end to the group.©MilitaryFactory.com
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United Kingdom
Operators National flag of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
National Origin
Decommissioned, Out-of-Service
Project Status
Hull Class
HMS Cyclops; HMS Gorgon; HMS Hecate; HMS Hydra

Offshore Operation
Activities conducted near shorelines in support of allied activities.

Vessel's hull design is such that it can operate in close-to-shore / shallow water environments.
Main armament is housed in primary turret(s) arrangement offering enhanced protection.

68.0 feet
(20.73 meters)
14.0 feet
(4.27 meters)
5.0 feet
(1.52 meters)

2 x Inverted 4-cylinder horizontal direct-acting steam engines developing up to 1,710 horsepower driving 2 x shafts astern.
11.0 knots
(12.7 mph)
Surface Speed
3,240 nm
(3,728 miles | 6,000 km)
1 knot = 1.15 mph; 1 nm = 1.15 mile; 1 nm = 1.85 km

4 x 10" (254mm) muzzle-loading rifled main guns in two twin-gunned turrets near midships.


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Image of the HMS Cyclops (1871)
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